Tuesday, 27 January 2009

A Question of Hides.

Here’s something I’ve been thinking of blogging for a while. This local birder isn’t a huge fan of hides. They do have their uses I know. At some nature reserves one has no choice but to use them. But more often than not, I usually find them rather restricting my field of view (especially above your head!).

If also like me you're quite tall, then you’ll also find that the slots in hides are way too low, ending up with a crick in your neck!

But they do have their uses. Especially if it’s raining, or to hold a sightings book for birders to use. Or like the old Tad Bay hide at Blithfield (lest we forget), there’s a space to sit in front of the hide, allowing for a much better view!

That besides, a lot of hides are also given names. Some of them are intentionally named after famous people. Such as Bill Oddie (at Druridge Pools), Tony Soper (at Abberton Reservoir) and Eric Morecambe (at Leighton Moss). But I have found over the years that there are other hide names. Some deliberately more tenuous than others. Such as:

Ronnie Barker (at Martin Mere)

Andre Nel (at Marshside)

Lily Allen (at Leighton Moss, well, perhaps.......)

Pete Townshend (at Blacktoft Sands)

I’ve really been racking my brain trying to think of others. If anyone else knows of any, however tenuous or ridiculous (but you get the idea eh?), then please let me know and I’ll add them to the list. Cheers!

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Another week, another germ

As the late great Mike Reid used to say on Eastenders, "for crying out loud!". Well, amongst other things. "Turn it in!", "Triff-ic!" and "Runaround!" being others, but not necessarily on Stenders.

I can't believe I've got another cold, worst sore throat I've had for ages. I've decided to give myself "Bio Hazard" status for the next few days.

As such very limited birding time over this weekend. I probably shouldn't have done any but it's difficult being stuck at home doing nothing all day. Highlights whilst just about staying conscious being Pink-Footed Goose and Jay at Uttoxeter Quarry (two personal site ticks), Marsh Tit at the Ramblers Retreat feeding station in Dimmingsdale and an impressive sight of 16 Ravens over Cheadle.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed soon........

Sunday, 18 January 2009

A Large Bittern Luck!

Saturday 17th January

I didn't fancy going far today, so just pottered around home. I had been told of a White-Fronted Goose at Hales Hall Pool in Cheadle during the week. Typical isn't it. Like waiting for a bus, two rare Geese turn up in the same place within a short space of time. I was also told that the bird does sometimes do a disappearing act during the middle of the day, so I wondered where else it could go.

On the other side of Cheadle is Blake Hall Fishery. Its about the only other large area of water in town, so I thought I'd check it out. In fact, I managed to locate the White-Front on a small pond, with Canada Geese, en route to the fishery.

Amazing what a bit of cropping can do! Its also amazing that the fence wire doesn't show up in front of the bird, it really is there. That's not a plastic warning by the way, just a fence to stop the sheep from drowning!

Sunday 18th January, Uttoxeter Quarry, 12:30 - 13:50

Being driven this time (thanks Andy!). Not much around really, 14 Goosander was a good count. Oh, and Blurred Martyn. Nice to see you Martyn. Don't worry, we didn't see the Brent Goose today either.

The plan was then to move onto Doxey Marshes to give the Bittern a try. However, a text from Nick that said "Iceland Gull at Coldmeece Pools" was too tempting. We could fit both in!

Coldmeece Pools, 14:30 - 15:00

On arrival at Coldmeece, the Iceland Gull had upped and offed away to nearby Swynnerton landfill. There was a Green Sandpiper though, and a rather strange looking gull. Caspian Gull? Don't ask me, gawd knows. Also nice to see Nick and Steve there.

Doxey Marshes, 15:30 - 16:15

Bit of an arty shot this one, Cresswell Flash with Stafford Castle in the distance. The light also blocks out the M6 and railway line!

34 White-Fronted Geese were still here, as was the Red-Breasted Goose of unknown origin (but I could have a jolly good guess!). Onto Boundary Flash where a group of birders had gathered. I'd only just set my scope up when the Bittern had been found flying across the flash.

It eventually showed really well a couple of times. No point digiscoping it though, too distant really and too windy. Which at one point blew my tripod over! Phew, that could've been expensive! No damage done though. That's my second Staffs Bittern, following one at Branston Water Park in December 2006.

We had a bit of daylight left, and it wouldn't take too long to get over to Copmere to check the gull roost. So off we went..........

Copmere, 16:30 - 17:10

I'm still not that confident with gull roosts you know. But at least at Copmere there is a spot where you can look down on the water, rather than being at water level.

Andy said "take a look at this one, what you do think for Yellow-Legged Gull?". Having a look I admit I couldn't pick out the bird in question. And then, "whoah, whoah, sweet child of mine!!!!! Look again, top left hand corner!!!!!!".

It was a magnificent juvenile Iceland Gull, and way too dark to digiscope that! It's also the first one I've seen for a very long time. The last one I saw was at Blithfield in 1997! I've just never bothered with winter roosts for such a long time. Changing that habit and making a concerted effort this winter is gradually paying off.

Well it's been quite a successful start to 2009. But I do know that this run will stop at some point!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Glaucous-Winged Gull

Saturday 10th January. Saltholme Pools, Cleveland, 10:50 - 11:40.

Unfortunately, an unforseen technical problem means I have no photies for today. Not a problem with the camera, just the eejit using it (me!), who accidentally deleted all the pics from the camera! Where's Homer gone? Ah, here he is...........

A shame, but just seeing the Glaucous-Winged Gull more than made up for that disappointment. I'd rather pull a daft stunt like that now than in India in a few weeks time. Just out of interest, I wonder how many professional rare bird photographers (or Snowy Owl flushers) have ever done that? (What? I can get away with that, can't I? I thought flushing was the norm for Snowy Owl fieldcraft these days?)

Anyway, back to the gull. Quite a gentle looking thing really. The rounded head and dark eye reminded me of Common Gull a bit. Nothing like a Glaucous Gull at all, which is a real hard-nut of a gull. The Vinnie Jones of gulls in fact.

Loads of photos are on the net now, including Surfbirds. Just how I saw it, stood on the ice with the other gulls.

Before heading off to my sister's house, I thought I'd fit a couple of other places in. Seal Sands was rather quiet with a pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers and 4 Black-Tailed Godwits, amongst more usual winter estuarine waders, being the highlights.

A look round Hartlepool Headland produced 17 Purple Sandpipers (I had some decent photos of them as well, sigh, never mind), 2 female Common Scoter, 13 Eider and a Rock Pipit.

Sunday 11th January, Saltholme Pools, Dormans Pool, Reclamation Pond, 10:45 - 12:00.

I know what you're thinking, "he didn't really go". Well, if you were in any doubt that I wasn't there:

Saltholme pools with the backdrop of the old Billingham ICI works. Much milder today and all the ice had melted. No sign of the Glaucous-Winged Gull either, which wasn't an entire surprise. There are three landfill sites nearby and like at Stubbers Green, they don't work on a Sunday. Apparently the last sign of it was about half an hour after I left yesterday, so actually I feel really lucky to have seen it.

There was a Peregrine knocking about however. Not the best photo I've ever taken, but you can just about make it out.

No sign of any large gulls on Dormans Pool. Or on the Reclamation Pond pictured below, with the backdrop of the Seal Sands oil refinery.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

It's M.C.F.A.R.L.A.N.D!!

It's sunk in a bit now. Roy McFarland is the new Brewers manager, on a caretaker basis until the end of the season. Come on Roy, finish the job off and get the Brewers into the football league!!!!!

I don't know why I remembered this, but there is a song about Roy McFarland. It's imaginitively called Roy McFarland, by Rockin' Johnny Austin! This is what the internet was made for, finding rubbish football songs!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Making Plans for Nigel

Oh cock. It's been inevitable for the last couple of weeks, whether it was Derby County or Nottingham Forest.

Just a little concerned as to who I believe will be Nigel's successor at the Pirelli Stadium. I mean, what's Roy McFarland ever done as a manager? Oh well, time will tell.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Finishing off the New Year Birding

Just one addition from Friday 2nd, as I was too tired to carry on blogging at that point.

Park Hall Country Park, 13:30 - 15:00

2 Long-Eared Owls, 1 Little Owl about 100 Golden Plover.

Saturday 3rd January, Cannock Chase, 10:30 - 12:30

A look round the Marquis Drive bird tables revealed a pair of Bramblings. Then after viewing a couple of blogs recently (see? not an original thought in my head!) over to another new area of the chase for me, the cadet huts and rifle range.

In fact, there wasn't very much here, but a short walk north of the cadet huts produced 5 Crossbills. They had found a large, but very icy, puddle in order to take a drink. Then took off into the tall pine trees, and then shortly later moved on.

Time to move onto the next port of call:

Chase Water eh. I wonder if it comes straight from the reservoir? Trouble is, with that thought and knowing the amount of gulls that come into roost, I haven't dared to drink it yet!

It was nice to see the Brightsiders at Chasewater also. A couple of areas of the reservoir's surface were not iced over, and after a short time we managed to find the drake Smew. Also 70 Goldeneye and a few Goosander.

Sunday 4th January.

Time to find me some Waxwings, especially as Steve had found a flock around Uttoxeter Quarry the previous evening. I did manage to find some today, although I can't quite claim it as a Uttoxeter Quarry tick:

These (there were more than one!) were along Old Knotty Way, on the southern edge of town. I did have a look in the morning, and managed to find a single bird then. After getting my shopping done and gone home to drop it off, I decided to return.

I eventually found a flock of about 30 Waxwings around the nearby housing estate. Quite appropriately I thought, all the roads in the estate are named after birds. I first saw the flock in Robin Close, then they flew back to Old Knotty Way by going over Kingfisher Way. Incidentally, there's a cracking rowan full of berries in Sandpiper Drive.

As I was about to leave a text appeared from Andy, "Dark-Bellied Brent Goose at Hales Hall Pool!". Wow, on the edge of Cheadle only a couple of minutes from home. Not only that, should be much easier to photograph than at Uttoxeter Quarry. And a Cheadle mega to boot, a real local twitch for local people! Get a load of this folks, also note the lack of bling on the legs.

After that I decided to tag along with Andy and Mad Malc, exploring some local farmland. Which was quite successful actually. 10 Bramblings in a flock of around 100 Chaffinches, and also 5 Yellowhammers.

A most enjoyable end to four successful days. Trouble is, I've got to go back to work tomorrow. Still, can't be off all the time. And only five weeks to work and then I'm off to India.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Friday 2nd January

Uttoxeter Quarry, 9:40 - 11:50

There we go, that's better.

Took a bit of finding though, the geese were a couple of fields away from the quarry.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Off to a Flier............

Thursday 1st January, Coppice Hill, Cannock Chase, 9:20 - 11:30

As Bono used to say, "all is quiet on New Years Day". Well, it was when I left home, but I can't say the same about the couple of hours I spent on the chase this morning. Actually, it's a new area of the chase for me.

It was quite an eventful wait before the Hawfinch eventually appeared (a county tick). Including cars parking up, containing birders, and blocking the view for the rest of us who decided to park further away and stand at a reasonable distance. And a happy new year to them too!

Other birds in the area included Willow Tit, Yellowhammer and a couple of flyover Siskins.

Doxey Marshes, 11:45 - 13:20

Due to the conditions there is very little water exposed on both Tillington and Cresswell flashes at Doxey today. Perhaps it wasn't a surprise not to see any White-Fronted Geese. But there was a calling Water Rail (squeal piggy!), 2 Snipe, 3 Goosander, 2 Stonechat.

On arrival back at my car, I was tucking into my roast beef and horseradish butties and thinking of heading to Uttoxeter Quarry, when the phone rang. It was Blurred Martyn. "If you're interested Stuart and I have 3 Bewick's Swans at Whitemoor Haye!"

Instead of returning to Uttoxeter to see if the goose flock containing the recent Brent might have reappeared, I decided to jump on the Bewick's bandwagon! (You see, don't put silly comments on your blog. It'll only come back to bite you on the bum!)

Whitemoor Haye, 14:00 - 15:00

Voila! Well, two of the three Bewick's Swans anyway.

It's a really good record these days. In days of yore, "when I were a lad", there was a regular herd of about 40 Bewick's Swans in the Whitemoor Haye/Croxall area, every winter without fail. It doesn't happen very often at all these days. Also at Whitemoor Haye were 2 Whooper Swans and good numbers of Corn Buntings and Tree Sparrows.

It was well worth it considering the torrent of abuse, and accusations of suppressing the Brent Goose, that I received! All in good humour though. But I really really haven't been to Uttoxeter today, blame the Hawfinch! I promise I'll check tomorrow, see if that goose flock have returned.